I really thought that I would have oodles to say after Mt. Washington a few weekends ago. It was, after all, anxiously anticipated by me for weeks. And months. And to sort of a weirdly obsessive extent. Maybe because I'm weird and should get a life.
There have really only been a couple of previous occasions where I was as nervous as I was on race day this go-around, given that the ultimate goal for the last couple years was to win it again, and one only ever has so much control over any outcome.
So pop quiz: what do Super Mario and Mt. Washington have in common? About as much as you may think. In other words, nothing really. But, descend with me for a moment, into the black hole of lunacy otherwise known as my imagination.
For months this race loomed in my psyche in much the same way as (bear with me for a second here, I’m trying real hard to adequately convey the feeling of Overwhelming Anticipation that very nearly seems to be a close relative to Dread) the inevitable duel that Super Mario knew that he would eventually be subject to with King Bowser in Level 8 of the original Super Mario Brothers.
Somewhat anti-climactic comparison, I know.
Yes, Mario spends level after level fighting small-fry villains: those little turtles and evil mushrooms (I've never understood the recurring mushroom theme in that game) and Venus fly traps and whatever else (I really don’t remember, I mean, this was the 90’s folks, and I was like 5 years old.) all so that he can take on Bowser and rescue the Princess!
Now to complete my odd duck of an analogy: I ran a bunch of workouts and local races (that is to say, I fought evil mushrooms and winged turtles, metaphorically speaking) for several months, with some good ones in there that buoyed me up like an Extra-Life, and a few bad ones and occasional bumps in the road where those evil mushrooms got the better of me and necessitated going back and starting the level over again, all in the hopes of ultimately emerging victorious in the battle against King Bowser (Mt. Washington).
As it turns out, I didn’t die and get a Game Over, and finally I saved the Princess instead of being thwarted once more by a diaper-wearing toadstool:Forgive me. I really had to reach for all of that. But that is what it felt like.
No but in all seriousness, let's address reality for just a sec, even though I suck at that. Although I promise to spare everyone an actual, insufferable, mind-numbing race recap.
Race day was a wonderful day (stroke-inducing nerves notwithstanding) accompanied by the usual abundance of wonderful humans who always seem to be a part of that particular race, though with a notable few perennial attendees missing, Kim Dobson and Peter Maksimow to name a couple from the usual crew of Coloradoans who invariably kick up the competition a notch or two. Times were a fair bit slower across the board for everybody, likely attributed to the warm and somewhat muggy conditions of race day. I'm also told there was an inversion. Lacking any solid foundation of meteorological know-how, I don't really know what that means, but it sounds awesome.
For a mountain that surprisingly boasts the highest recorded wind-speeds on earth, there wasn’t a puff of wind to be found either above or below tree-line; no refreshing breeze to greet us after emerging from the tunnel of trees taking us through the first three or so miles. Still though, it’s always easy to say you could’ve run faster if this or that, and that might be true, or it might not be. Because really, if it wasn’t hot and humid, it could’ve been hurricane-caliber winds, or snow, or who knows what else. Everyone fights the same conditions, all you can ever do is show up and throw down. Because Bowser don't care.
Cool. So now I just said all of that right after I began this post with the claim that I had little to say regarding the race. Super Mario analogy aside, I suppose the reason I feel that way is because I anticipated it so much for so long, and felt like I had so much to prove to myself. Namely, to prove to myself that I still had “it.” Whatever “it” actually even is. I suppose I thought that accomplishing what I had made a pact with myself to achieve about this time last year, would somehow be a game-changer of sorts. And I did feel pretty good about it, mostly because it's always reassuring to find in this sport that yes, you can have a crummy year or two or five, but you can always get back on the horse and keep fighting the fight and you'll be a-okay sooner or later, and you shouldn't be all that surprised when you are.
While I enjoyed it, and was happy about it, and thankful for it, and I appreciated it, and I fully intend to give it another go, I went back home afterward and it was business as usual. Although I’m sure Mario’s winning the heart of Princess Peach following his epic battle might have altered the course of his pixelated life, a much-anticipated race followed by an equally anticipated outcome never really does, no matter how much you invest into it. At one time, a good or bad race result certainly would have thoroughly dictated how I felt about life, but now it doesn’t. Maybe that sounds like a bad thing? It’s not. Hooray for personal happiness and self-identity not being inextricably intertwined with a race outcome. That’s how I see it at least. So,there was at least one slight epiphany that resulted from the experience.
But circling back around: for anybody else who was a child of the late 80’s/early 90’s, we all know that Bowser just never really seemed to die and he just kept popping up in every sequel to kidnap the Princess again, more battles always await!
And more often than not, it turns out that we are our own "Bowser."